Cholesterol is a fat- like substance (lipid) present in the cell membrane. Our body needs cholesterol to build cell membranes, making hormones, to digest our dietary fat intake and various other very important bodily functions. But there is a dark side to this seemingly helpful substance which affects the lives of millions of people all over the world. Cholesterol travels in the blood in distinct particles containing both lipids and proteins (lipoproteins). When excessive amounts of cholesterol are circulated, they cause damage to the arteries, especially the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Cholesterol ridden plaque accumulates in vessel linings leading to a condition called “atherosclerosis”.
Cholesterol – High Cholesterol and Heart Disease
High Cholesterol levels, impedes blood flow to the heart and the heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen causing chest pains (angina). If a blood clot obstructs a coronary artery affected by atherosclerosis, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) is likely to occur often proving to be fatal. Reducing cholesterol levels has become the need of the hour.
Heart disease because of high cholesterol levels, is the major killer in America, far more than road accidents, plane crashes, hurricanes, gang wars combined together .More than 90 million American adults, or 50 percent of the adult population has high blood cholesterol levels, the primary risk factor for heart disease.
Cholesterol catalysts: Good Cholesterol and Bad Cholesterol
Three major classes of lipoproteins are found in the serum of a fasting individual: low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL).
LDL cholesterol makes up 60-70 per cent of the total serum cholesterol. LDL is the major atherogenic lipoprotein and has been long ago identified as a primary target for cholesterol lowering therapy.
HDL cholesterol makes up 20-30 percent of the total serum cholesterol.. Clinical evidence indicates that HDL helps protect against development of atherosclerosis. It is advisable to check your HDL levels from time to time.
The VLDL is triglyceride-rich lipoproteins and contains 10-15 percent of the total serum cholesterol .VLDL are produced by the liver and some VLDL remnants seem to promote atherosclerosis similar to LDL.